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GSA proposed rulemaking could limit purchase of single-use plastics, associations say

Several industry associations have submitted comments to the GSA in opposition to the proposed rulemaking.

September 8, 2022

The Washington-based General Services Administration (GSA), which manages federal property and serves as the government’s purchasing authority, has proposed to update policies related to single-use plastics in purchased products and in packaging materials.

According to the proposed rulemaking, GSA wants to determine “how to best reduce single-use plastics from packaging while limiting burden and liability” on its industry and logistics partners. The administration intends to use public comments in order to craft requirements and reporting mechanisms to reduce the use of single-use plastics.

GSA initially published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking July 7, seeking public comment on revising its policies by Sept. 6; however, the administration is extending the public comment period to Sept. 27 to provide additional time for interested parties to provide input.

Several industry associations have expressed concerns regarding GSA’s proposal to reduce the use of single-use plastics from packaging.

The Washington-based Plastics Industry Association (Plastics) filed comments to the GSA, expressing concerns that this proposed rulemaking could ban the purchase of single-use plastics by federal government agencies.

“If this proposal moves forward, it will run directly counter to the administration’s environmental goals to reduce emissions,” says Matt Seaholm, president and CEO of Plastics. “This proposal would not only cost taxpayers millions and millions of dollars, it would enforce the use of products and materials that will have a much larger environmental footprint than the plastic products the administration would be looking to phase out.”

Seaholm says Plastics compiled examples for the GSA of how plastics can perform better from an economic and environmental perspective than other available materials.

He adds, “Our industry is investing billions of dollars to recycle more plastic waste in the U.S. We would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the administration to develop effective recycling solutions that reduce plastic waste through smart investments in infrastructure, technology and education.”

The Washington-based American Chemistry Council (ACC) also has expressed concerns related to the GSA’s proposed rulemaking on products containing single-use plastics purchased by the federal government.

ACC’s comments to the GSA state that reducing or banning the purchase of products containing single-use plastics could increase the government’s greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint because lifecycle analysis studies have shown that plastics can lower GHG when compared with alternative packaging materials. Additionally, ACC says this rulemaking could increase waste sent to landfill as alternative materials typically result in items that weigh more than those made with plastics.

The association says it is encouraging the GSA “to follow the science when it comes to product procurement. According to multiple studies, including most recently a report by McKinsey & Co., plastics have a lower GHG impact than alternative materials in 13 out of 14 applications studied. A single-use plastics ban would run contrary to the administration’s important goal of reducing GHG emissions.”